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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : features June 24, 2016

2/18/2012 1:03:00 PM
The Verde Valley in 1912: Part 4
Smelter towns Cottonwood, Clarkdale emerge from the smoke
Verde Historical societyCottonwood went from 0 to 60, economically speaking after the United Verde Extension built its smelter nearby. It went from one store to being the economic hub of the area in just six years.
Verde Historical society

Cottonwood went from 0 to 60, economically speaking after the United Verde Extension built its smelter nearby. It went from one store to being the economic hub of the area in just six years.
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Not long after Clarkdale was built, the days of horse and mule team-drawn wagons drew to a close. Thanks, though, to some thoughtful urban planning, Clarkdale's roads were ready for the transition.

Steve Ayers
Staff Reporter

Gazing down from atop Mingus Mountain in 1912, you couldn’t miss Jerome, a bustling community marked by a huge smelter stack puffing the acrid smoke of prosperity into the valley sky.

If you looked a little east and down the slope a tad, you might also see the tiny community of MacDonald, named for one of the few men who never sold out to William Clark.

And if your eyes cast a gaze all the way to the valley floor you might have seen the tiny town of Verde, east of Jerome, and perhaps a wide spot in the road then called Cottonwood, next to the river.

But that’s about all you would see in the upper valley with the exception of a solid ribbon of farms and ranches, leading downstream.

But that view would not have lasted very long.

If you had come back to the same spot just six years later you would have seen two major additions -- the sparkling new Clarkdale and a significantly expanded Cottonwood.

Changes up top

Tired of fighting fires above and below ground and realizing that a pocket of high-grade ore lay directly beneath the Jerome smelter, William Clark began purchasing land at the base of Cleopatra Hill in 1910.

Two years later he had acquired 1,200 acres on a relatively flat shelf, 2,000 feet below Jerome, and overlooking the Verde River.

It was enough land to build a new smelter, a terminal for his new railroad, which at the time was making tracks for the Verde Valley, along with a town big enough to house 7,000 people.

The smelter was an absolute necessity. The railroad would allow him to move more product and make more money. But the town he intended to build was a dream.

The City Beautiful

In 1893, a year before the first underground fire started at the United Verde Mine and half way across the country, America was getting a taste of its newfound prosperity as well as a peek into what its future might hold.

The occasion was the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and its main stage was the “White City” -- a shimmering cityscape of stately buildings, broad boulevards, fountains and lights, dedicated to the proposition that beauty and order could save the human race.

It was a living testament to the City Beautiful movement, which at the time was guiding architects everywhere -- municipal, social and otherwise.

There is no proof that Clark had any connection with the City Beautiful movement, but there can be little doubt that his dream town, named Clarkdale in his honor, was influenced by it.

Building Clark’s dream

Clark separated his town into two districts, upper Clarkdale and lower Clarkdale.

Upper Clarkdale included all the public and mercantile buildings. It was also the residential community for the merchants, professionals, superintendents and mine administrators.

Lower Clarkdale, which was adjacent the new smelter, was for the smelter workers, mechanics, clerks, and laborers.

Further down the hill, across the tracks and technically outside the town limits, Clark erected “a number of Mexican patio” homes, an enclave built exclusively to house his Mexican employees.

According to T.C. Roberts, United Verde’s chief engineer and the man who oversaw the building of Clarkdale, all employees who were to live there were given an opportunity to submit a rough sketch of what they would want, if they were building their own home.

From their sketches, standard plans for houses containing one to nine rooms were drawn. Merchants, it should be noted, were offered the same opportunity to design the commercial space.

Ground was broken on Clark’s dream town in June 1913.

Final product

By 1917, Clarkdale had a stream-fed water system, as well as a modern (by standards of the time) sewer system. Every home had electricity and the Mountain States Telephone Company provided phone service.

There was an ice plant capable of producing 25 tons a day. a park with a gazebo, a 75-foot-wide main street with streetlights, sidewalks and parking for America’s darling of the new century, the family car.

It also had a two-story schoolhouse, a 30-room boarding house and a flourishing business district that included general stores, a bank, drug store, theater, bakeries, restaurants and three saloons (which shut down on Jan. 1, 1915).

But unlike Jerome, it had no red light district.

Clarkdale has the distinction of being Arizona’s first planned community. Not long after Clark began building the town, mine companies in Ajo and Douglas also began constructing fashionable and modern community centers, but none would reach the level that Clarkdale achieved.

By the standards of its day, Clarkdale was a “City Beautiful” and a shining light, pointing the way to Arizona’s bright future.

Cottonwood and the Little Daisy

In 1912, there wasn’t much in what is today downtown Cottonwood except Alonso Mason’s general merchandise store and post office.

The one thing Cottonwood had going for it was that it was located at a wide and shady spot on a busy county road running from one end of the valley to the other.

Mason’s closest neighbors were a handful of dairy farmers.

That was the same year, though, that James Douglas Jr. decided to purchase the Little Daisy Mine.

The Little Daisy had come to be in 1900, when a surveyor by the name of L.L. Fisher discovered a piece of ground just east of the United Verde, triangular shaped and less than one acre in size, that had gone unclaimed.

Just like the United Verde, the United Verde Extension went untapped until Douglas put a syndicate together with pockets deep enough to exploit its wealth.

In Douglas’ case there was absolutely no room on the Cleopatra Hill to build a smelter, so he selected a site on the valley floor, east of Clarkdale, adjacent of the tiny enclave of Verde.

Verde, also a neighbor to Mason’s store, was a tiny cluster of homes that had sported a post office in the late 1870s, but by 1912 had fallen off the map.

The United Verde Extension Copper Company’s smelter, like its mine on the hill above, was an economic boon.

The wide spot grows

In 1918 Verde was described as a “temporary town of 80 frame homes, a general merchandise store and an amusement hall.” Two years later it became Clemenceau, named after the World War I French statesman.

By the time Douglas fired up his smelter, Cottonwood had become the commercial hub and had been joined by a cluster of homes originally called Scott’s addition, but later known as Smelter City.

In 1918 it boasted four general merchandise stores, five dry goods stores, three restaurants, a barber shop, a theater, an amusement hall, a drug store, a bakery, a confectionary, a lumberyard, two garages, two blacksmith shops, a butcher shop, a furniture store, two shoe stores, seven pool halls, a service station, ice plant, jewelry store, three hotels, ice cream parlor and root beer stand.

Including the people living in Scott’s addition, there were 400 residents of Cottonwood. But a total population surrounding the smelter of 1,500 was supporting the business community.

Nearly a century later, Cottonwood’s strategic location has continued to ensure its role as the commercial hub of the valley.

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Related Stories:
• The Verde Valley in 1912: Part 3
• The Verde Valley in 1912: Part 2
• The Verde Valley in 1912: Part 1

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